In his book, The Dip, Seth Godin talks about the great advantage it is to reach that point in an endeavor when all seems lost. Every endeavor reaches that point, Godin points out. And most people quit, right then and there. And what is the advantage for you when you reach this point? If you reach this point and don’t quit, if you look at the damning evidence but suspend final judgment in favor of perseverance, if you keep on pressing even though all seems hopeless, you’ll quickly distinguish yourself from your competition.
“Keep on steppin’!” sang the Fatback Band. Godin agrees with these lyrics.
There’s a time to wait, to be sure, and a time to pray and a time to watch. But in the thick of life, especially when the path forward looks hopeless, the decision and the will to keep moving is powerful.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” goes the popular proverb.
The faith and hope that is activated when a person takes action – while in the midst of extreme adversity – is life changing. At the moment when the path forward is blocked, and all seems lost, most people quit. The decision to quit, at that moment when there doesn’t seem to be any point going forward, is not generally experienced as a decision at all. In our moment of quitting, we believe that fate has intervened. The universe has decided against us. It’s a fait accompli, after all. A done deal. What’s left to decide?
Yet, the decision to quit when there appears to be no other available choice is still a decision. Quitting is a decision about how to see “the facts” of our situation, how to analyze “the facts,” what conclusions to draw, and what must be done. “I must stop trying,” is a chosen conclusion. Doing so or not doing so – sitting down or taking another step toward the thing that we have concluded is now impossible – is a decision.
“Successful people do the things that unsuccessful are unwilling to do,” goes the timeless aphorism.
Over the years, I’ve paid attention to the accounts given by my heroes, accounts of how they achieved what they achieved and how they persevered in the face of extreme adversity. I can say unequivocally that I have found not a single story of heroism that managed to skip the part where all was lost. Every hero I have ever admired reached a point in their epic struggle when they had failed unrecoverably. They didn’t make it. They came to their end. They discovered that it was all over, they were done, their dreams caput.
They all realized that they had hopelessly lost, and then they all did something in the middle of their hopelessness. They kept moving anyway. They kept walking, moving, trying, hoping, praying, going. They chose to act beyond any defensible point in doing so.
“Every great endeavor ever achieved looked like a complete failure at some point in the middle,” goes the ancient motto.
I’m writing these few lines to offer you encouragement. Keep going! You can do it! Don’t give up! Press on!
On Christmas Day, 2014, Angelina Jolie will release Unbroken, the extraordinary story of Louis Zamperini. He’s another hero of mine. Look him up. Take his courage into your soul. Persevere! Keep moving! Walk!